Feeding the world
In light of a recent agreement by Taiwanese leaders to purchase $4 billion worth of North Dakota and U.S. agriculture products, the state's agriculture commissioner said inroads continue to be made with southeast Asia buyers.
"That's a relationship that was established years ago and it's a relationship that we certainly appreciate," ag commissioner Doug Goehring said. "We hope to facilitate more discussions about other commodities that we produce that could potentially provide even better products to their consumers. Everything is on the table."
After meeting with Taiwanese officials on Tuesday, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., announced that a deal was struck for Taiwan to purchase 9 million metric tons of U.S. wheat, soybeans and corn at a cost of $4 billion. A member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Hoeven stated that North Dakota would be a principal supplier of wheat in the deal.
"This announcement is a testament to the quality and productivity of American farmers in North Dakota and across the nation," Hoeven said. "Agriculture is a major American industry that has a favorable balance of trade and supports 16 million jobs."
Besides North Dakota's strong ties to the Taiwan market, Goehring said the majority of soybeans produced in the state make their way to markets in China, via the Pacific Northwest.
"We're trying to make some inroads with food-grade soybeans going into China," Goehring said. "We have also spent some time in Asia and southeast Asia visiting with people there about other commodities produced in North Dakota that could be utilized to enhance some of the nutritional value of their foods, more specifically, I'm referring to things like peas and lentils and dry beans, which could be used to enhance texture, quality and self-life."
Because of the amount of noodle-based foods produced and consumed in different parts of southeast Asia, Goehring said North Dakota-grown durum is also a product that is coveted in select Asain markets.
"Since there are only a few places in the world that really produce any large amounts of high-quality durum, North Dakota is tops on that list," Goehring said. "We have their attention. We do have to realize, however, that with China -- as is the case with most southeast Asia countries -- our price is the determining factor. That said, our products from North Dakota can also be blended with other products in an effort to meet some of the standards that require a higher quality and more nutritious food."
Though matters involving energy seem to generate more headlines in North Dakota in recent years, Hoeven said agriculture is still a driving force in the state's economy and beyond.
"There's no question that agriculture has always been and will continue to be a huge part of what we do in North Dakota," Hoeven said. "We have about 32,000 families involved in farming and ranching in our state. When you talk about agriculture in the U.S., it's an industry that has a positive balance of trade while the country as a whole has a negative balance. We like to say we produce food, fuel and fiber in North Dakota."
Though it also receives much of its wheat from Canada, China imported 27 million bushels of U.S. wheat in the marketing year 2012-2013, according to the North Dakota Wheat Commission. Imported bushels to China were expected to be significantly higher for the current marketing year.